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Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness - Seneca

>> 22 January 2009


Yesterday I was in town for my Pilates class. We live in a tiny village, so venturing out into the city is a nice but also stressful change.

Traffic.
Traffic lights that seem to turn red just when you get there.
People, everywhere: coming out of shops, going into shops, crossing the streets, bumping into you.
Cars: fuming, honking, trying to take priority over pedestrians.

Finally I made my way into the parking garage. Phew.

My class relaxed me and deleted all the stress I had built up coming - besides improving my posture...

I went back to the parking garage, which is close to the train station. The station area is usually not the best district of a city. So I tend to become one of those anonymous people that just go from A to where they have to Be, without noticing too much or looking up.

I was fishing for my parking ticket, when I noticed a small man with a paper cup talking to the guy paying his parking fee. And I thought 'Great, a beggar. Do they come into buildings now? Do they follow us everywhere?': gut reaction of the person who just walked through town ducked into her coat in the hope to be invisible.

I put the ticket in the slot and looked at the machine telling me 3,60 Euros. I hesitated to take out my purse to pay, quickly looking up at the supplicant to evaluate my risk of being mugged.

Meanwhile, this guy is rattling down his pleading speech about his large family, his sick boy... And I found myself thinking: who am I to judge him? Why do I think he would mug me? What makes me assume that his story is fake? Why do I have these prejudices?

And I felt a small wave of kindness wash over me unanticipatedly.

I looked into my wallet, took out the coins to pay for the parking and was ready to drop a few into the guy's cup, when I noticed a 5 euro bill. And my hands just took it and gave it to him.

My eyes were still cast down but I did get a glimpse of his huge smile and the sparks that lit up his eyes, while he was thanking me profusely. I mumbled something and went off inside.

By the time I was safely back in my car, the wave of kindness had taken me over completely and I felt elated. It also made me start to think about my reactions: why did the city make me want to become one of those anonymous passerby? How and why was the city able to influence my mood in such a way?

But above all: why was I so reticent toward the beggar? Where did all these prejudices come from? Why am I able to donate money online with not so much as a blink, when I seem to be unable to look the needy person in real life in the eye? And who the hell was I thinking about when I thought 'do they follow us everywhere?'

My random act of kindness made me feel warm and fuzzy inside all day. And I am asking myself why I don't do this more often, more naturally. I am not talking about giving money to every beggar on the street (remember, I live in a tiny village which has no street persons - and they are even scarce in our city).

I am talking about being kind in general, doing the small things that we are able to do, the things that Lance at Jungle of Life calls 'small gestures of love'. Whether it's a simple thank you, a touch of a hand, or a compliment.

Let's spread kindness and make the world a better place, one baby step at a time. Because small is the new big.

5 comments:

Henie 22 January 2009 at 23:48  

Hello...

I love the ending of this post for obvious reasons.

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

One of my friends is a homeless man. Whenever I am ruffled with my own life, he always waves and graces me with a big huge smile as I drive by...and then I, all at once, become grateful. :0)

Thanks again for your insightful post.

Back again soon,
Henie

Lance 23 January 2009 at 04:01  

Hi Mimi,
I think this is a wonderful story. And it's a story of hope. What you did was a very nice gesture. And two lives were changes - yours and his. In fact, I'll say that even more than two lives were changed. Because you've also changed mine. By reading here of what you did, I feel an even deeper desire to show more compassion. And I'm not just saying that - I do truly mean it. I love this story, and I do feel my heart softening...

Why is it hard to give to the real person we see on the street - yet easier online, or in mail form? I think it's because in face-to-face meetings, we have to look the person in the eye - and there becomes a connection. And allowing that connection can be hard to do...

You did great, Mimi!

MindFul MiMi 23 January 2009 at 14:44  

Henie,
We keep forgetting that other people lead lives as well and that they are as important as ours. I was surprised by this negative feeling of superiority over the beggar, the ' us versus them' attitude which gets us nowhere. And I always find it amazing how people who seem to have it bad manage to still see the positive, smile.

Lance: thank you. Next time I will look a beggar in the face. Why, maybe I'll hug him. The coins I wanted to give would have been out of a feeling of guilt, or obligation to give. The money I gave him was a gesture I wanted to do, because I wanted to surprise him, give him a moment of happiness - which I believe was reflected in the sparkle in his eye. This experience will surely make me more alert and aware the next time around.

Terri 25 January 2009 at 05:31  

"We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own." Ben Sweetland

I have a crush on your blog, Mimi! :)

MindFul MiMi 25 January 2009 at 21:51  

@Terri: Love that quote - thanks for sharing. I feel flattered that you love my blog. I love your photos too.

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